Friday, December 9, 2016

Barolo - 2012 Vintage Examples

If I could only drink one type of wine for the rest of my life, I would pick Barolo. The Nebbiolo grape, in the hands of the right winemakers of Piedmont, produces astonishing fragrance and tannic structure at the same time; the best of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, one might say.

The 2012 vintage, the latest on the market, started with cool and wet weather, but turned very hot in August, before cooling down again. 2010 was a classic vintage, with a focus on structure, while 2011 was hot, with fruitier wines for earlier drinking. 2012 probably sits a bit in between, showing good Barolo character.

In this tasting, nine  2012 wines were shown and compared with three classic wines from earlier vintages. The first six wines were from younger vines, typically 15 years old, but some older vines as well. My favorite here was the 2012 Ferdinando Principiano Serralunga Barolo. This is a medium- to full-bodied wine with good cherry fruit intensity, freshness and dusty tannins (93 points). It offers terrific value. The 2012 Massolino Barolo from the same area is not as elegant, with strong tannins (91 points). The 2012 Vietti Barolo Castiglione is quite elegant, with a firm structure as well, but a bit of a gap on the mid palate (92 points). The two wines from La Morra show expectedly more floral and fragrant character: 2012 Trediberri Barolo (91 points) and 2012 Brezza Barolo Sarmassa (90 points). The one Barbaresco thrown in, the 2012 Cascina della Rose is extremely pretty on the nose, but a little light on the palate (92 points).

The three wines from older fruit were very impressive. All of them were made in the traditional way: with long maceration periods and aged in larger barrels.
- 2012 Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera: very pretty cherry fruit, elegant, balanced, soft tannins (93 points)
- 2012 G.D. Vajra Barolo Ravera: stronger tannins, less well balanced (92 points)
-2012 Giovanni Rosso 'La Serra' Barolo: smooth, with silky tannins and good length (94 points)

These wines were compared with three classics: the 2006 Aldo Conterno 'Romirasco' Barolo comes from the original vineyard in Bussia in the village of Monforte d'Alba. It was made in the traditional way. The fruit of this wine was quite ripe. The wine had some barnyard character with soft tannins. I did not warm to it (92 points).

The 2004 Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda, released after 10 years, was my wine of the night. It showed a complex forest floor bouquet on the nose. The firm structure somewhat dominates the tar, leather and spice character of the wine. It is quite long and a classic Barolo, but would not have been everybody's favorite (94 points).

Quite a contrast was the 2001 Gaja 'Costa Russi'. This wine was aged in French barriques. It is smooth on the nose and has a very elegant mouthfeel, but there is a lot of oak from the barrique, overshadowing the fruit tannins of this wine (93 points).

None of the wines disappointed. This is typical for Barolo. 2012 showed elegance as well as strong tannins, depending on the producer. The wines tasted were not the pinnacle of the vintage, but are well worth seeking out. 

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